In his 10 years in this country, Tushar Jain has found all the elements of a happy life but one.
He has a well-paying career as an accountant in Kamloops, a city he very much likes, and he has a girlfriend. This missing piece for this 31-year-old is a home of his own.
Like many young Canadians, Mr. Jain feels priced out of a housing market where average national resale prices are up close to 50 per cent over the past two years. Now, he wonders if there’s a future for him in Canada.
“What kind of country are we trying to build here?” he asks. “Are we just going to build a country of landlords and their kids owning most of the homes? Or are we trying to build a place where people come to work and live and enjoy?”
Mr. Jain came to Kamloops from India to study accounting at Thompson Rivers University. One of the reasons why he decided to stay in this city of 100,000 people was a lower cost of living than in bigger cities like Vancouver, which is about a four-and-a-half hour drive west.
Home for Mr. Jain right now is a one-bedroom apartment in the basement of a house in central Kamloops, where the rent was recently increased to $1,275 from $975. Life as a long-term renter is something he’s been thinking about lately. The financial side of it bothers him less than the lack of freedom to live his own life.
“My landlords live right above me,” he said. “They are looking at who comes in and out of my place. I’ve been told my girlfriend can only stay over a limited number of nights a week. Also, according to my rental agreement, if odours from my cooking food get too strong, I can be evicted.”
A year or so ago, Mr. Jain thought he was on the right track for buying a home. In addition to getting a salary bump, he paid off his car loan to become debt-free and was saving money. But in the ensuing 12 months, prices in Kamloops were caught up in a pandemic housing boom driven by low mortgage rates and a desire for more living space. In January, the average Kamloops resale price of $595,800 was 26.3 per cent higher than 12 months before.
Now, every property he looks at ends up in a bidding war that drives up prices beyond his comfort zone. For example, there was the centrally located one-bedroom plus den unit (”like a townhouse”) on sale for $350,000. He figured he could go as high as $375,000 to $380,000, but the property ultimately sold for $415,000.
“I have a mental ceiling for how much I’ll pay for every place I look at,” he said. “I feel like the ratio of income to house value has to be somewhat reasonable.”
First-time buyers today often get financial help from parents. That’s not an option for Mr. Jain, who regularly sends money to his mom and dad back in India. Given the small scale of Kamloops as a job market, he also rejects the idea of pushing his finances to the limit to buy.
What he is willing to do is compromise on his wants. This helps explain Kamloops over more economically and socially diverse cities, and why he’s willing to buy a one-bedroom apartment, as opposed to something larger and more spacious. “Another compromise I made was about having kids or not,” Mr. Jain said. “With how expensive two- or three-bedroom homes are, I don’t think I can afford to have kids.”
Mr. Jain said he chose to move to Canada because he saw more opportunity to do things like buy a home. Now, he’s considering the possibility of moving to the United States.
“I became a Canadian citizen just three months ago, and I’m very proud of that,” he said. “But the thing is, if you look south of the border and compare prices, there are two-bedroom apartments I can buy in downtown Portland [Ore.], one of the most livable cities in the world, for less money than Kamloops.
“I’m doing fairly nicely for someone my age,” he continued. “If I’m not able to buy a house, I don’t know.”
Are you new to Canada? Is the cost of housing causing you to reconsider whether you want to live here? To share your story, e-mail personal finance reporter Erica Alini at firstname.lastname@example.org